The lower east side of Detroit is about to get a make-over. Hantz Woodlands (formerly known as Hantz Farms), has reached a deal with the State of Michigan to purchase 1,500 parcels of non-continuous land for the price of half a million dollars and plant urban forestry in place of blighted and derelict properties that scatter the landscape.

The press release from the office of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder claims:

Within two years of closing on the parcels, Hantz Woodlands will clean all vacant land acquired and mow vegetation at least every three weeks during the growing season. At the same time, Hantz will demolish at least 50 dangerous structures while planting at least 15,000 hardwood trees.

On the civic end, this is a way that the city can get properties cleaned up and into the hands of someone who has the capacity to care for them. While in many parts of the city, neighbors have tried to gain control of nearby properties in order to maintain them themselves, a great deal of the new Hantz Woodlands have gone up for auction at some point before ending up in the hands of the Michigan Land bank, who has no interest in simply holding the land in hopes that better prices come along in the near, or not so near, future. MLive reports that out of everyone surveyed in the area where the forest is being proposed, over 90% support the plan.

At only $333 per parcel, many people are considering this an example of corporate interests gaining control over local stake holders. However despite the low price, Hantz has plans to invest millions in the property, something that a neighbor looking to clear the brush and maintain the lawn length would have a hard time pulling off. This large scale effort will also put property tax money back into the city, which can use any property tax cash they can get their hands on.

Hantz Woodlands location in Detroit

Hantz Woodlands location in Detroit

There’s also some basic economics at play here: When the market has a surplus of a product (in this case, land in Detroit), the price will drop. Desirability will go a certain distance, but so will scarcity. The bottom line here is that there are now 1,500 fewer available parcels in the city of Detroit, and even though this deal with Hantz was five years in the making, it shows that if you want in on the rock bottom prices of land in Detroit, you might not have lots of time to weigh out your options.

Even if other properties in Detroit have been substantially more awkward in their attempted acquisitions such as the $6m bid on the Packard plant, not far from where the Hantz Woodlands project will be enacted. After the prospective buyer released a bizarre statement riddled with strange wording, misspelled words, and tragically poor fact-checking, the deal fell though.

John Cruz
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John Cruz

Editor-In-Chief at The Urbanist Dispatch
John Cruz, MUP, is an urbanist, photographer, and city planner. He has lived in Detroit, Montréal, and now resides in St. Louis.
John Cruz
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  • Freedom_Fighter

    forrest? if spending millions atleast plant useful fruit bearing trees etc like in seatle they have way better game plan! (planted a park with tons of free fuit trees for everybody). Google seattle food forest before you waiste all the taxpayers money on normal trees!

    • Grey

      I came on here to suggest the same thing! Get that land producing! Get some locals and train them to build and maintain it.

    • PJ McFlur


      Taxpayer money? Hantz Farms is buying the land. Be happy somebody is willing to invest a dime in Detroit.

      • It is my understanding that this is all private funds which will be used to purchase and develop the land. Since Hantz Woodlands will be paying property taxes on the land in addition to the roughly half a million dollars that is being paid to the city to purchase the land, Detroit’s taxpayers should not be left on the hook for any unfunded liabilities.

        Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest is a great project, but it is a very different situation as it is a community-driven initiative with access to public lands.

    • Lee Brown

      where does it say anything about taxpayers money bein uses on this,.,.,. it a private group buyin this land and they can do whatever they wish with it,,. their land,their money,., and useful tree,., all trees are useful,., and butfor u go running that mouth know what u talkin about first,., .u may want to go look at this

    • Enya

      Aside from the fact that this project is private and therefore not reliant on taxpayer money, I doubt the trees would survive. I’m not an arborist but Detriot’s winters can’t be good for most fruit bearing trees that are sensitive to freezing temperatures. Seattle’s weather is significantly milder to support the food forest idea.

      • Ashley Krywko

        I agree, Seattle has a way different climate then Detroit!

  • Brian

    The fruit tree idea would not work in Detroit. The soil is too contaminated with lead.

  • Ellie

    Hantz Farms should be commended for taking on such an endeavor! I wish someone would come down to Toledo and do something to this effect.

  • Amanda Koh

    Why is this including Indian Village? Is this a hoax? That is a nice area of beautiful historic homes, on the West side of this proposed area.

    • kevinL_of_mich

      I was thinking the same thing… this includes a beautiful community.. INDIAN VILLAGE… so they plan to demo all those baeutiful homes… makes sense .. destroy what works along with the crap… thats Detroit

  • Habib Shukur

    Nice! Glad to hear Detroit is cleaning up.

    • ND

      Should do the same on the far west side in Brightmoor…a lot of vacant land, especially when burned-out houses removed.

  • Tony TR McCoy

    The forest is only temporary and will eventually be converted back to housing or business developement. The story in thisvarticle is incomplete.

    • Enya

      What evidence do you have to support this? Or is this merely personal speculation?